A bizarre accident claimed the life of a 55-year-old Oneida man early Saturday morning.Johnny Chambers, 55, of Oneida, died after the car he was driving left the roadway near Oneida’s Main Street and burst into flames.
Details remained sketchy Monday morning, as the Tennessee Highway Patrol declined to release information, citing the ongoing investigation into the nature of the crash.
While it did not immediately appear that foul play factored into the crash, Oneida Chief of Police Darryl Laxton said that his department turned the investigation over to THP due to the fact that it was a fatality and due to the unusual circumstances surrounding the crash.
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[s2If current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]911 dispatchers were alerted to the accident shortly after 4 a.m. Saturday morning, when a motorist on North Main Street near Oneida High School noticed a vehicle in flames in the back yard of a residence.
Oneida Police Department officers Chad Jones and Josh Kennedy were first on the scene, followed by Oneida Fire Department firefighters.
Initially, Laxton said, his officers were not aware they were dealing with a fatality. It was not until after the flames — which were shooting more than 20 feet into the air from the fully-engulfed car — were extinguished that Chambers’ body was discovered inside.
On Monday morning, the tire tracks from Chambers’ Chevy Impala were still visible on several lawns near the site of the accident.
Chambers was apparently east-bound on Church Street when his car left the roadway, traveled through a lawn, passed between two trees while narrowly avoiding a collision on either side, then continued on its way.
At one point, in the back yard of a Main Street residence, the vehicle had backed up, clipped an RV, then continued north on an allyway that was once a paved street connecting Church Street and Davis Lane.
At one point, tree debris blocked the crumbling pavement, and the vehicle left the roadway, entering a lawn to continue north. Some 240 ft. from where the vehicle initially left the roadway, the alleyway ends at a fence. Tire marks on the ground indicated that the vehicle had attempted to turn around, before continuing north and crashing into the fence.
Laxton said his theory from the initial observations at the scene of the crash were that the vehicle’s tires continued to spin after hitting the fence, resulting in heat friction that eventually caused the tires to ignite, the flames spreading to the rest of the vehicle.
But, the chief added, “That will be up to THP to determine. They have the investigative resources to determine what actually happened.”
Chambers’ obituary had not been released as of Monday afternoon. Funeral arrangements were unknown.[/s2If]